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Vettel failure in Valencia: problem recognized, but no solution

Vettel failure in Valencia
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T technical defects are rare in modern Formula 1. Especially when they appear in series. At European GP, ​​Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean stopped within seven laps with the same damage. The alternator, which converts mechanical energy from the engine into electrical energy to drive various ancillary units, went on strike. 'It looks like overheating played a role in both cases,' admitted Renault engine boss Rob White. 'We have carefully checked the individual components of the alternators and there are no indications for any other reason. Nevertheless, we will try to recreate the situation on our test rigs in Viry.'

Not the first alternator damage

According to White, the SafetyCar phase has nothing to do with the overheating problem. In the case of Vettel, it even extended the life of the alternator by a few laps. 'The slower speeds behind the SafetyCar delayed the total failure of the systems. When Sebastian switched back to racing speed, it was quickly over.' While Vettel's defect was announced on the display, Grosjean was hit by the power failure out of the blue.

In the course of the investigation, Renault looked in its books to see whether there had been any such damage this season. In fact, alternator problems had occurred twice before. Once during the winter test drives on a Red Bull. 'That was a self-experiment,' says White. 'We went to the absolute limit with the engine to see how long the components would last. After this problem occurred, we went to the safe side with the engine settings.' At the Monaco GP, Vitaly Petrov rolled out silently in the Caterham after 15 laps. In this case, according to White, the cause was the old age of the alternator. 'It had just over 4,000 kilometers on it and was about to be serviced. Since then we have shortened the maintenance intervals significantly.'

The alternators from Vettel and Grosjean were practically brand new. After 400 kilometers on the test bench, the fresh engines and alternators came from Valencia to the Red Bull RB8 and the Lotus E20 on Saturday. 'In total, the parts had unwound less than 1,000 kilometers at the time of the failure,' reveals White. He therefore does not want to rule out the possibility thatthe two copies are a faulty series.

Renault still troubleshooting

Obviously, the reason for the overheating is not due to the ambient temperatures. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told auto motor und sport on request. 'The temperatures in this area were ten degrees higher on Mark Webber's car than on Sebastian's car at the time in question.' That rather speaks for a mechanical overload. Similar to the scenario that was simulated during the winter test drives.

In this context, it is interesting that Vettel and Grosjean had the majority of the race free and could therefore drive their pace unhindered by others. A fast pace. It is therefore possible that they have chosen different engine maps than the other six drivers with Renault engines behind them. The engine map not only determines whether you drive in overdrive or attack, it also has an influence on the replenishment of exhaust gases when the engine is towing. And that in turn determines the aerodynamics and traction.

Renault has not yet offered a final solution to the problem. 'We're looking at several possible solutions,' confirms White. 'One would be to use alternators from a different production series for all of our customers. The second, to modify the current alternator. The third, to use the specification from 2011. We will also ask our customers whether they want to improve the cooling or other engine settings that are not so aggressive. Whatever the conclusion, we will carry out a thorough investigation after Friday practice at Silverstone and take action if necessary. '

That doesn't sound like anything to finally resolve the problem. Between the lines you can rather hear that the actual cause of the damage could be in the engine settings used. Renault may still have aggressive maps with extreme ignition and injection times on offer. These are good for the lap time, but put too much strain on the engine environment.


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